Ernst Mayr and "Life"

Curtis Clark jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU
Mon Sep 13 07:15:59 CDT 1999

At 09:43 AM 9/13/99 -0400, Les Kaufman wrote:
>I think Ken is right about the three domains.  It is now being taught as
>dogma in intro bio in many places.

Much like the five-kingdom scheme, which is as misleading.

>Also, while prokaryote systematics is
>indeed very important, interesting, and of practical value, I think that
>the act of recognizing its importance has reinforced a dangerous swing
>within biology away from greater appreciation of the full range of life,
>to an increasingly pathological overfocussing of research resources and
>dollars on things miniscule.

Prokaryotes *are*, statistically speaking, the full range of life.
Eukaryotes are certainly important to *us*, and they are handy hosts for a
number of prokaryotes, including mitochondria and chloroplasts, but
everywhere life occurs on Earth, prokaryotes dominate.

I think the pathological overfocusing is on one specific eukaryote, Homo
sapiens Linnaeus.

Btw, I'm not a microbiologist; I study resolutely eukaryotic angiosperms.

> Instead of a broader embrace, a further
>justification for narrow reductionism and the use of molecular tools that
>have now become much more accessible, convenient, and data-rich than
>modern ecological and evolutionary work on plants and animals
>incorporating the full range of questions, approaches and tools.

When molecular studies have answered all the easy questions within their
realm, the study of ecology and evolution of prokaryotes as well as
eukaryotes will enjoy a resurgence, buoyed up by the data from molecules.

Curtis Clark        
Biological Sciences Department             Voice: (909) 869-4062
California State Polytechnic University      FAX: (909) 869-4078
Pomona CA 91768-4032  USA                  jcclark at

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